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Cancelled and delayed flights still plague Aussie travellers

A recent survey has found two in five people, or 40 per cent, have had flights delayed or cancelled this year.

Almost 9000 people took part in the Choice survey, which revealed the startling numbers over the past 12 months.

The findings are not reassuring for travellers as the holidays begin.

The air travel industry is almost at pre-pandemic levels when it comes to people flying.

Qantas and Jetstar are expecting more than 8.5 million passengers on nearly 70,000 flights throughout December and January – more than half a million more people than the same time last year and the most since 2019 and 2020.

Virgin expects to carry 3.3 million passengers across its network during December and January – a 9 per cent increase on last year.

Additionally, 63 per cent of respondents who had a flight cancelled this year said they were not given a reason as to why, while 65 per cent said the cancellation process was “somewhat or very hard”.

Little compensation

After a cancelled flight, 47 per cent of people who decided to pursue a refund received their money back within a month; however, 20 per cent were waiting for more than six months.

Of those who had their flight delayed, 85 per cent were not offered accomodation or meal vouchers to compensate them for their troubles.

Choice senior campaigns and policy advisor, Bea Sherwood, said many people will be relying on flights to see their loved ones over the Christmas period.

Unfortunately, our survey of almost 9000 people from across the country has found consumers still face a number of difficulties when dealing with the aviation industry,” Sherwood said.

Our survey found two in five respondents had their flight cancelled or delayed in the past year – this does not bode well for the upcoming busy Christmas and New Year period when airports will be flooded with travellers flying to visit loved ones.”

international flights on board at the airport

Consumers were being hit hard by changes to their flights. Photo: Getty

Push for reform

It has been a turbulent few years for the aviation industry, however, Sherwood said it was “simply not good enough” that consumers were the ones being hit hard.

Sherwood said that people were often left feeling frustrated as flights were delayed or cancelled without reason or sufficient warning.

“To make matters worse, many customers do not receive satisfactory refunds or compensation when their flight is delayed or cancelled. For those who do actually end up receiving a refund, they often have to fight tooth and nail with the airline for months,” Sherwood said. 

For years, Choice has advocated for reforms in the aviation sector.

Recently, the consumer advocacy organisation joined forces with the Consumers’ Federation of Australia to make a submission to the federal government’s Aviation Green Paper.

Choice and the Consumers’ Federation of Australia are calling for specific protections for the consumers.

The protections would include a new independent travel and tourism industry ombudsman scheme being established, minimum compensation arrangements for delayed or cancelled flights, clearer rights for refunds and minimum requirements of travel credits.

The consultation period for the Aviation Green Paper has now closed and in mid-2024 submission for the development of the Aviation White Paper will be made public.

Sherwood said Choice is looking forward to that final Aviation White Paper.

“We hope it will set out a clear plan to strengthen consumer protection in the aviation industry,” Sherwood said.

“Sensible reforms such as an independent ombuds[man] scheme will ensure people no longer have to deal with the emotional, financial and logistical hardships so many travellers have experienced over the past few years.” 

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